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Stunning new filtering plan contradicts its “Your World” marketing campaign

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson confirmed that the telecom and internet giant is “very interested” in a “technology based solution” to monitor data passing through its networks for rogue peer-to-peer traffic.

“It’s like being in a store and watching someone steal a DVD,” said Stephenson. “Do you act?”

Such a move would affect more than just AT&T’s subscribers, as the company’s network investments represent a sizable chunk of the internet’s backbone – which results in almost all Internet data passing through its network at some point. Given that AT&T has, so far, been pensive about the scope of such a project, many are assuming the worst.

More importantly, AT&T may forfeit its end of the deal in what Slate’s Tim Wu calls “the grand bargain of common carriage:” legal immunity from whatever claims might arise from data its network transports, in exchange for offering network service to anyone in a nondiscriminatory fashion. “AT&T's new strategy reverses that position and exposes it to so much potential liability that adopting it would arguably violate AT&T's fiduciary duty to its shareholders,” writes Wu.

In an absence of any official word on why AT&T wants to implement such a project, many people think that the primary motivator is an alarmed response to the growing percentage of traffic attributable to P2P activity; various surveys claim that anywhere from 30 to 90 percent of all internet traffic is P2P related. Lately, ISPs both large and small have been testing the waters with a variety of traffic-shaping initiatives, including Comcast, which last year found itself in the middle of a scandal over how it handles BitTorrent traffic.

According to AT&T – as well as anecdotal reports and commentary from other ISP employees – Internet users should expect a more managed Internet experience in the near future, as technology is finally becoming sophisticated enough to allow for such large-scale projects.

“We recognize we are not there yet but there are a lot of promising technologies,” said AT&T executive James Cicconi, “but we are having an open discussion with a number of content companies … to try to explore various technologies that are out there.”

If anyone has the expertise to deploy such a large filtering project, it would be AT&T: the company was already caught red-handed with powerful data-mining hardware, which it used to gather information on the nation’s web traffic for the NSA.

“The volume of peer-to-peer traffic online, dominated by copyrighted materials, is overwhelming. That clearly should not be an acceptable, continuing status,” said NBC Universal’s general counsel, Rick Cotton. “The question is how we collectively collaborate to address this.”

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RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By mindless1 on 1/26/2008 6:04:15 PM , Rating: 2
That is incorrect. Suppose I sell you a car then tell someone I didn't. Is the car any less yours?

Now let's equate that to internet traffic. You can easily have the right to use software and no limit on how you *transport* that content, yet based on the word of someone who no longer has a right to add new terms to the original agreement you entered to secure right to use that content, a 3rd party is now allowed to block your data?

It is certainly true most of the traffic seen with P2P is copyright infringement, but creation of new policies and active filtering should not be restrictive of other legitimate data transportation.

RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By themadmilkman on 1/27/2008 2:05:38 AM , Rating: 2
That is incorrect. Suppose I sell you a car then tell someone I didn't. Is the car any less yours?

Well, that depends. Did the purchaser neglect to record the title? And did you then sell the title to the vehicle again to the second individual, who then recorded the title? If that were the case (and it's more common than you would imagine, especially with real estate) in most states the second individual would then own the car.

(Yes, this is completely OT, but who cares?)

RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By mindless1 on 1/27/2008 7:07:11 AM , Rating: 2
What in the world? This is a simple concept you're getting confused about.

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